Chimpanzee gazing from a tree, a highlight of chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzee Trekking: Get to Know Our Closest Living Relatives

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Niarra Travel

As one of the most intelligent animal species on the planet, capable of learning languages, using tools, and walking on just two legs, it’s perhaps no surprise that chimpanzees and humans share as much as 98.7% of their DNA. Wild chimpanzees are exclusively found in Africa, and the opportunity to encounter these highly social animals face-to-face in their natural habitat is truly a life-changing experience.

Tourist observing chimpanzees, a key part of chimpanzee trekking adventures

Sadly, these fascinating animals are under tremendous threat, largely due to deforestation, bushmeat hunting, disease, and the exotic pet trade. As a result, chimpanzees have been classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Given that female chimpanzees tend to only give birth once every five years, a relatively slow birth rate in the animal kingdom, it has become more important than ever to take steps to address these challenges.

By choosing to go chimpanzee trekking and witness these animals living their lives in the wild, you are already part of the solution, creating much-needed jobs in ecotourism, and contributing financially to their conservation by purchasing your permit. Additionally, spending time with these incredible animals is almost certain to turn you into an advocate for chimpanzee rights.

Close-up of a chimpanzee in natural habitat, captured during chimpanzee trekking.

What to expect

Chimpanzee trekking in their natural habitat, deep in dense indigenous forest and national reserves, requires careful planning. Due to the vulnerability of the species, access is strictly controlled by local government. Having organised many chimpanzee trekking adventures over the years, the Niarra Travel team has first-hand experience in navigating the process and will guide you on what to expect at every step of the journey.

While the experience varies depending on the country you choose for trekking, there are similarities regardless of your destination. After purchasing a permit in advance, a chimpanzee trekking experience typically begins at a park or reserve’s headquarters, where you will be introduced to your expert trackers and park rangers and given a briefing.

Your group, usually numbering six or fewer people, will then be allocated a habituated chimpanzee troop, and you will begin your hike to locate them. Once the chimpanzees are found, you will spend about an hour with them, observing their interactions as they play and feed – an emotional and life-changing experience that will likely evoke both laughter and tears.

Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania

Where to go chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzees are found in several locations across East, West and Central Africa, but the two most popular choices for trekking are Uganda and Tanzania due to the number of habituated chimpanzee families and the high standard of accommodation and stability of these countries.

To determine which chimpanzee trekking destination will suit you best, there are a few questions to ask yourself – or that the Niarra Team will ask you. Firstly, are you planning to combine your chimpanzee trek with a gorilla trek? Secondly, what else are you hoping to include in your trip – would you like to go on safari, or perhaps spend some time at the beach? You will also need to consider the style of accommodation you prefer, along with the age and fitness levels of your travelling group.

Chimpanzee foraging on the forest floor, seen on a chimpanzee trekking trip.

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

The nation of Uganda is home to Kibale National Park, widely regarded as the best in Africa for trekking, with about 1,500 chimpanzees located in an area roughly the size of New York City. There are four habituated chimpanzee troops in Kibale National Park, easily located and very comfortable in the presence of humans

Additionally, you have the option of going on a habituation experience which allows for more time in the company of chimpanzees as the park rangers and guides slowly get them used to the presence of people. It is important to note though, that this experience requires a higher level of fitness as often the hikes are longer and more arduous.

Other options for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda include Kyambura in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kalinzu Forest. While Bwindi Impenetrable Forest does not have habituated chimpanzees, you may encounter wild chimpanzees while trekking for gorillas or golden monkeys.

Chimpanzee trekking trip to  at a sanctuary near Entebbe

Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania

While most people automatically associate Tanzania with the wide-open savannahs of the Serengeti, the country’s landscapes are diverse including remote and largely undiscovered national parks and forests that are home to thriving chimpanzee populations.

There are two options for chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania: Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe Stream National Park. Of these, Mahale Mountains National Park is highly recommended due to its fantastic accommodation offering. Both parks sit on the banks of Lake Tanganyika and are accessible only by boat.

Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania can be quite strenuous, requiring long hikes deep into the forest with expert guides who have spent decades getting to know the approximately 60 habituated chimpanzees in the area. At times, the chimpanzees may venture onto the shores of the lake, making each encounter entirely unique.

Chimpanzees playing in a sanctuary, important for chimpanzee trekking education.

Where to stay

With chimpanzee trekking usually taking about half a day, requiring you to work up a sweat, selecting a lodge close to the starting points of the treks is essential to minimise travel time. As there is downtime between treks, finding a lodge that offers a restorative environment, with a light ecological footprint, a picturesque setting and a welcoming hospitality team is equally important. These are a few lodges that tick all the boxes and more.

Kyambura Gorge Lodge, Uganda

Situated on the edge of Queen Elizabeth Park, Kyambura Gorge Lodge offers incredible views of the savannah, distant mountains and the forest valley.

This lodge, created by one of the leaders in responsible great ape tourism, Volcanoes Safaris, features eight banda cottages and a fantastic spa. With a pathway leading directly into the forest for trekking and Kalinzu just a 20-minute drive away, it serves as an excellent base for a chimpanzee trekking safari.

Dining Area at Kyambura Gorge Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Kibale Lodge, Uganda

This new lodge by Volcanoes Safaris, located near Kibale National Park, has been carefully designed to blend with its remarkable surroundings.

Featuring eight deluxe rooms and a luxurious villa, Kibale Lodge serves as the perfect launching pad for unforgettable chimpanzee trekking experiences and meaningful visits to community projects. The lodge also collaborates with the Jane Goodall Institute Uganda, supporting vital conservation projects in the heart of the forest.

AF Uganda Kibale Forest National Park Ndali Lodge Banda Int

Greystoke Mahale, Tanzania

Located on the shores of the crystal-clear Lake Tanganyika, Greystoke Mahale is a remote eco-lodge constructed out of wood and thatch, offering a blend of a beach-style hideaway and chimpanzee trekking adventure.

With expert trackers leading you into the jungle on foot, you can enjoy up-close chimpanzee encounters. Afterward, you can explore the lake in a dhow or kayak, spotting crocodiles and hippos along the way.

Greystoke Mahale 18

Combine gorilla and chimpanzee trekking

For a truly unforgettable experience, you can combine chimpanzee trekking with gorilla trekking in one trip. Getting to see two of Africa’s great apes in the wild is easily achievable – each offering an equally special yet completely different experience. We have put together some helpful gorilla trekking FAQs to answer all your questions about what to expect.

Rebecca Niarra Gorilla

Ready to start planning the chimpanzee trekking adventure of a lifetime? Niarra Travel’s team of Travel Researchers will guide you through the process and ensure you find the perfect fit for a completely personalised chimpanzee safari to Uganda or Tanzania. Simply get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US), or at to get the ball rolling.

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